Week 30

Movies: Non-English

My Life as a Dog (Sweden, 1985) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%]

my life as

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxzO8Qx96O4

This Swedish flick is about a dysfunctional family with the youngest child as the protagonist. A sick mother, an absentee father and a quarrelsome elder brother make life difficult for 12 year old Ingemar. There are beautiful distractions in the form of girls and Ingemar himself has a philosophical take everything, especially on the plight of the dog Laika sent to space. This bittersweet tale was a box office success in its transatlantic crossover in the US. Worth a watch.

Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi (India, 2003) [IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%]

hazaaron-khwaishein-aisi-400x400-imadky6vfeg8umzk

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jL7U30ESYWk

This is a film close to my heart as I have met versions of the characters portrayed in the movie. It is set in the Emergency era Delhi. The lives of three college friends are intertwined by love, ambition and politics. It is a poignant story and the life of each character is worth an analysis as the movie progresses. The performances are exceptional, with Shiney Ahuja stealing the show. How sad that such a huge talent was wasted. Moving on, the movie is the most authentic representation of life in the 70s in India. The political churning is in stark contrast to the opulence of the Delhi upper crest. The music and songs are befitting for the movie; the track ‘Baanwara man dekhne chala ek sapna’ being one of my personal favourites. In my opinion, one of the best movies to have come out of India in the last decade.

English Retrospective

American Beauty (1999) [ IMDB: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]

american-beauty-poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Q3ltyPJJMQ

This is Sam Mendes’ feature debut as a director and he won an Oscar for it. This one is also on a dysfunctional family, the head of which is played by Kevin Spacey. He is a man of many secrets and is facing a mid life crisis. He develops a liking for the friend of his daughter and from there on it is all downhill. The film is remarkable for its engaging screenplay and the rock solid story it wants to tell. The climax will take you by surprise. Recommended.

The Cider House Rules (1999) [IMDB; 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%]

cider-house-rules-poster-0

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4D2Hog1tEA

Charlize Theron and Tobey Maguire light up the screen in this slow burning story set in an orphanage and among apple orchards. Though I believe that the 7 Oscar nominations the movie received were too many, the two wins it had for Screenplay and Supporting Actor were well deserved. Michael Caine deservedly won the Oscar for this one but it is a movie which tests your patience. Recommended only for the discerning viewer.

Donnie Darko (2001) [ IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%]

donnie darko

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZyBaFYFySk

An underrated and not widely viewed cult classic horror movie. The lead character sees a rabbit which makes him commit crimes. It is one of those movies which you have to view with rapt attention if you do not want to miss the finer points. Jake Gyllenhaal shows early promise in this film. This film is more spooky than scary but then utilizing grey cells is always better than having an adrenaline spike.

Movies I Saw This Week

Despicable Me 2 (2013) [IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%]

despicable-me-2-poster-01

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TlbnGSMJQbQ

Maybe it is just me but I feel that all protagonists in animation movies are similar. The happy go lucky guy who is good at wisecracking. ‘Despicable Me 2’ is just another animation film which does nothing to set it apart from the few top notch animation movies released every year. The plot involves a villain who needs to be fought. If it wasn’t an animation movie, I would have have avoided it like the plague. Giving it the benefit of doubt, I would rate it above average.

The River Why (2010) [ IMDB: 5.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 31%]

river why

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AV5o7L4_DYU

I guess the ‘Why’ in the title was added by studio executives who could not figure out why they funded this film. The story has a man choose solitude and fly-fishing over everything else. In the process he also gets a girlfriend (Amber Heard). The best thing about the movie is the tintinnabulation the river makes. Enjoy the landscape. Don’t pay attention to the people on screen.

Norman (2010) [ IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 64%]

norman

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJFs4WIE9yw

A  troubled teen with suicidal tendencies meets a new girl in school. He also has a father awaiting death. The movie is let down by the heavy handed direction and sloppy background score. The script and dialogues are good but then it falters as it moves forward. The finale is as good as throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Bigger Stronger Faster* (2008) [ IMDB: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

bigger stronger

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KzGfuFFSxA

The drug problem in American sports told through the eyes of a very level headed competitor. This was before Lance Armstrong revealed that he had lied strong. Must watch. Live strong, play fair.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’ because it took so long to make, it better be good.

Did you know: Louis Lumiere, one of the pioneers of cinema, is credited with directing 101 movies between the period 1892-1900.

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Week 29

Movies: Non-English

A Prophet (France, 2009) [ IMDB: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

prophet

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l69ARbQt-Ko

One of the truly sensational French films of the last decade, ‘A Prophet’ tells the gripping story of an Arab convict who plays the system to emerge on top when he is incarcerated. In a prison where Italian and Arab gangs fight each other, he rises to the top even when he is the only Arab member in a group of Corsicans. For a complex film, it has a free flowing screenplay and taut editing. Reasons enough for it to sweep all major awards in its release year.

Confession of Murder (South Korea, 2012) [IMDB:6.8, Rottten Tomatoes: Not yet rated]

confession

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZqGR_auPhk

After a 15 year statute on limitations expires, a serial killer publishes his memoirs detailing each of his murders. The emotionally drained detective who was looking at the case soon finds a reason to re-look at the events. This South Korean thriller starts on an interesting premise but mostly fires blanks when some real action was the need of the hour. Leaves you with a feeling of having left your meal mid way.

English Retrospective

Seabiscuit (2003) [ IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 77%]

seabiscuit

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yv6RnFTlu4I

Based on the award winning non fiction book on a little known racing legend, ‘Seabiscuit’ is more about the people behind the horse than the horse itself. With little more finesse this movie could have been a classic but then it has an Achilles heel and a very prominent one at that. It trivializes the ‘Great Depression’ as if Seabiscuit was at the core of the recovery and return of hope. It is in this gamble where it tries to blend in history that the movie falls flat. This is not to say that it is a bad movie. It has its moments. Some of them truly great and the movie is an inspirational one. For better or worse, it is not about the horse.

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

Glengarry Glen Ross Postrer2

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QgAU2RJHfvE

The machinations in a real estate company. Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin and Kevin Spacey. Six reasons to watch the movie. Based on a play by David Mamet. Make that seven reasons.

My Cousin Vinny (1992) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]

My-Cousin-Vinny-Poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SL4HdaZXuOw

Few Hollywood movies have made me laugh like ‘My Cousin Vinny’. If you start laughing there is no reason to stop. The plot involves an attorney trying to save his cousin and his cousin’s friend when they are wrongfully accused of murder. Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei have a field day. Never knew courts could be such fun. Must watch.

Movies I Saw This Week

Now is Good (2012) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 64%]

Now is Good Movie Poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENg2HnY5UuM

A girl suffering from leukemia has a bucket list to execute. Even though the theme has been done to death (no pun intended) in movies, this one tugs at your heart in some moments. It is very difficult to make bad movies or truly great ones out of such themes. What you usually get is average stuff but this one is a little above average.

The Look of Love (2013) [IMDB: 5.8, Rotten Tomaotes: 56%]

look of love

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Z4yqK1KxuY

A low for Michael Winterbottom who was once a very promising director. The Britisher’s attempt at trying to give a sentimental look to the life of Paul Raymond who became Britain’s richest man by appealing to people’s baser instincts, does not wash.

Odd Thomas (2013) [IMDB:6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 65%]

odd thomas

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEnvutQ0UI4

From the creators of ‘The Mummy’, this one gives the look of a low budget film which was made on a holiday. A young man has supernatural powers but cannot talk about them. He has to save a town and his girlfriend when devilish forces attempt to create havoc. Yawn.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Marley (2012) [ IMDB: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%]

marley

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KuIkYtYi4b0

Bob Marley analyzed threadbare. Love music? Must See.

Eagerly Waiting for: ‘The Armstrong Lie’ because it could be the documentary that exposes Lance Armstrong for what he is; a drug cheat.

Did you know: The Hollywood Walk of Fame has the names of more than 2500 artists embedded on it.

Week 18

Movies: Non- English

The Baader Meinhof Complex (Germany, 2008) [IMDB: 7.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%]

Baader Meinhof Complex

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FanVI8-zlsA

Germans are a curious bunch of people. They like things to be planned and dislike uncertainty. How such a society falls prey to radical ideologies is worth pondering about. After the disastrous fling with Nazism, Germans of the post war era have a shot at left wing radicalism. This film tells the true story of the group at the heart of this movement. The film is a copybook study on how idealism goes wrong and leads to bloodshed and crime. It also looks at how movements deviate from their path and ultimately fail. The movie is told at a good pace and the settings look authentic. The performances are nothing to gloat over but it is definitely worth a watch.

Army of Shadows (France, 1969) [IMDB: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%]

army of s

Tralier: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=on38oTESbHU

This one charts the story of the French Resistance against the Nazis during the Second World War. France had easily capitulated to the Nazis but that did not stop a group of spirited people from putting up a resistance. This movie does not have supermen or gladiators fighting off the evil but it does have ordinary men doing extraordinary things in a very ordinary style. The story is written by two people who were part of the movement. The movie does not try to excite. It moves at the same pace throughout but as a viewer you are slowly drawn into the lives of the characters. The story is one of loyalty and deception, hope and heartbreak and many other hues. All this adds up to the best French movie on the Second World War. Highly recommended.

English Retrospective

The reason I am changing the name of the section to ‘English Retrospective’ is because some of the finest English movies are made outside USA.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley (Ireland, 2006) [IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]

wind-that-shakes-the-barley

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yvHe_ksnDA

Ken Loach is one of the best film makers alive. This is his masterclass. It is the story of two brothers who take up arms for Ireland against Britain but then find themselves at the opposite ends after the bigger enemy is dealt with. Ireland is one of the political disasters of the 20th century and the British government sowed the seeds of discord among those who fought them in Ireland. The movie is a painful recollection of the events and how successful the British were with their ‘Divide and Rule’ policy. It is a formula they later applied with great success in India too. Coming back to the film, it is a movie shot exquisitely and has a great story to tell. It never gets melodramatic but then the despair on the screen is affecting. I would say that it is a must see if you are interested in making any sense of the conundrum in Ireland. No wonder it won the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) [ IMDB: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]

four-weddings-and-a-funeral

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JMuyzm3JRU

If you have seen too many movies on weddings with the same old story, take  a break and watch this one. Genre defining movie with clean humour and too many laugh out loud moments. This is the movie which made a star out of Hugh Grant and is testimony to the power of great writing. The movie deals with the protagonist’s love life over four weddings and a funeral. One of the biggest box office draws of 1994, this film was loved by audiences across the globe. A really good comedy which is my benchmark for wedding movies. Watch out for Rowan Atkinson in his best movie performance.

Fargo (1996) [IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]

fargo

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EB4PmbfG4bw

The Coen Brothers are masters of crime cinema. This is one of their best movies with Frances McDormand in an Oscar winning performance. I haven’t checked who were her competition that year but she would have won hands down any year for her role as the local policewoman trying to find the missing links in a series of crimes that sweep a small town. The movie is about a kidnapping gone wrong and how things spiral out of control leading to disastrous consequences. This one is so astutely made that if you blink you may miss some of the best moments. A real edge of the seat thriller. I just love it.

Movies I Saw This Week

The Great Gatsby (2013) [IMDB: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 70%]

Great-Gatsby3

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaBVLhcHcc0

I have not read the novel which is the source material for the movie and after watching the movie I don’t plan to. One thing I can say for sure is that the film is an early contender for the Oscar for ‘Set Decoration’. Though there are many scenes that have backgrounds that rely too heavily on technology to create the ambiance, the attention to detail is breathtaking. The film has been made with such dedication that every frame is so well thought out and it shows on screen. That is ultimately the failing of the movie because somewhere along the line the movie loses its soul in trying to look spectacular. I have not been a great fan of Baz Luhrmann who has made some below average films like ‘Australia’ and ‘Moulin Rouge’. Here he is let down by the fact that the baby faced  Toby Maguire who is also the narrator of the movie, has a baby voice. Leonardo DiCaprio is not going to win the elusive Oscar for this one but Carey Mulligan is a delight to watch. The Great Gatsby is hailed by some as a classic American novel but then the film makes it look like an average masala novel with a very convenient ending. The film never soars but it is not exactly a disaster either. Sometimes too much publicity is a bad thing.

The Company You Keep (2012) [IMDB: 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 56%]

Company_You_Keep_poster

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UELonDEqAMw

A reporter from a local daily uncovers the identity of a fugitive on the run from FBI for more than three decades. The fugitive was part of a dreaded underground group which violently protested against the Vietnam war. Veterans like Robert Redford and Susan Sarandon add sparkle to this otherwise average film. It is engaging to a point but not exciting enough. The cards are heavily in favour of the fugitive. So things are not difficult to predict. Not a bad movie though. Anna Kendrick is a fine actress but she needs to get out of the role of the office assistant / intern which she seems to always end up with.

Lovelace (2013) [IMDB: 6.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 52%]

lovelace

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPJY-g-WoQo

Linda Lovelace was the star of the biggest grossing porn film of all time. This film takes you behind the scenes and details the seventeen days that Lovelace spent in the porn industry, gaining her a lifetime of infamy. It is a sympathetic portrayal of a lady exploited by her husband and how she shows the courage to come out of it all. Amanda Seyfried looks the part as the naive young lady. Fit for mature audiences only.

Documentary Pick of the Week

Religulous (2008) [IMDB: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 78%]

relig

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdkyLrDpaUg

Bill Maher talks to people on religion and God. Funny, revealing and informative.

Eagerly waiting For: ‘The World’s End’ because it has some really funny guys.

Did you know: French movies have won the most number of Oscars in the ‘Best Foreign Movie’ category.